PHOENIX -- Matt Herges had no way of knowing it, but the more he talked in his interview with D-backs manager Torey Lovullo, the better his chances of being hired as the team’s pitching coach got.
Though the decision was made a couple of days ago, it was formally announced on Thursday that Herges is replacing Mike Butcher as Arizona’s pitching coach.
“As he was answering questions, he was piece by piece checking every box of what was going to be very important to me and this organization,” Lovullo said.
Herges -- who appeared in 567 big league games during his 11-year career, including seven for the D-backs in 2005 -- pitched for Lovullo when he was coming up through the Indians' farm system.
"I thought he communicated very well about a lot of the things that we feel are important,” general manager Mike Hazen said. “We felt like he was going to be a good relationship developer, we felt like he had success in San Francisco [as bullpen coach in 2017 and '18], we heard unbelievable things about him from a wide variety of places. We’re really excited to get somebody like that in the fold. We think he has tremendous experiences as a player and a coach, done a number of things as a coach. We think all those experiences are going to help.”
Data is king in Major League Baseball these days, and Herges has worked hard over the years to get himself up to speed on how to best use it.
One of the things that impressed Arizona the most about Herges was the fact that he was able to help translate new data to veteran pitcher and Giants ace Madison Bumgarner.
“He gave me a couple of really outstanding examples of dealing with the leader of that pitching staff [Bumgarner] in San Francisco about getting the information and how they work together to get through that process and learn about it,” Lovullo said. “It is very new over the past couple years at the big league level. I thought he was really eager to take what he didn’t know and learn about it.”
Herges credits Bumgarner’s desire to get better and said that the key was not just telling him that he would get more movement if he spun the ball a little differently coming out of his hand.
Instead it was about taking the technology and putting together a visual that would actually show Bumgarner the difference. It was that kind of creative teaching ability that excites the D-backs about their new coach.
When it comes to learning his new pitchers, Herges has an advantage in that with so many of them living in the Phoenix area, where the Spring Training facility is located, there is usually a large crowd working out there during the offseason.
“I'll have time to start those relationships when they get here, see guys throw their bullpens and start digging in,” Herges said. “I can't wait. We’re still dealing with humans, we’re still dealing with relationships, and ultimately, that’s the most important thing. Analytics and data and technology [are] extremely important, but I will always believe that the relationship is paramount to that."
In other coaching news, Lovullo said that Jerry Narron, who had been the bench coach the previous two seasons plus part of 2017, will not return in '20.
The team already promoted Luis Ureta from extra coach to bench coach, but it had offered Narron the opportunity to return if he wanted to in Ureta's role.
"I think [Narron is] going to try to pursue some other opportunities with other organizations,” Lovullo said. “He had a very, very successful run as our bench coach. Any organization that does get him and the organization that pulls him in, they’re going to get a great asset."